Gautier leaders talk about Singing River Mall redevelopment plan

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - A multi-million dollar mall makeover is in the works for Gautier. In January, we first told you about Walmart's plans to build a supercenter to the Singing River Mall property. Now city leaders are about to put the final touches on a deal to bring in more stores and a whole new look to a retail area that's been in decline.

"Morrison USA is the developer that represents several developers," Gautier City Manager Samantha Abell said. "They have redeveloped dead malls in Tennessee and Florida with a lot of success."

Samantha Abell is confident that same success can happen in her city.

"We want to make sure this is not a faceless, nameless, commercial strip center," Abell said.

A few of the familiar anchor stores will remain. But nearly half of the mall will come down to make room for more trendy new restaurants, updated retail space, and a splash pad. Even Walmart will move to the mall property.

"I have always said this mall is the hub of Jackson County and that is going to come to pass," said Mayor Tommy Fortenberry.

Mayor Fortenberry said this is one of largest redevelopment projects the city has seen in years and will help ignite even more growth. The city plans to connect the new Singing River Mall to the new town center going up across the street.

"We will have the development agreement this Tuesday night at the council meeting and it is going to be a $90 million investment," said the mayor.

While some shoppers said they will believe the redevelopment plans when they see them, others told WLOX News they feel the makeover is long overdue.

"They have lost a lot of the stores and it just needs to bring more life to the City of Gautier," one shopper said.

"A lot of people are going to Biloxi and Mobile and everything, and we need to keep the tax dollars in this area right here," another shopper said.

Gautier leaders would agree with that. Though, they couldn't give a specific timetable on how long it will take to give the mall a new look, they expect demolition to start this summer.

The council will also have to agree on a reimbursement plan for the project. In 2011, the city approved a tax increment financing plan, which offers rebates to a developer for improvements needed to public infrastructure.

The meeting at city hall starts at 6:30pm Tuesday night.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.